Get pledging for the Carers Week quest

This week, all of the organisations involved in Carers Week – including Carers Trust, Carers UK, the MS Society, Age UK and others – went to MP Norman Lamb with Carers Week membersWhitehall to launch the Carers Week quest.  The aim this year is to really focus our minds – not just amongst carers charities, but across the NHS, local authorities and other charities. We need to work together locally as well as nationally because although we know there are around 7 million carers in the UK, the vast majority do not get anything like enough support. Continue reading

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Carers Week 2014, Young carers | , , | 2 Comments

Looking back at Carers Week 2012

Note: We asked Carers Week Manager, Helen Clarke to share with us thoughts on her experience of Carers Week 2012. Following is a blog post contributed by her.

Older carers

This year’s Carers Week theme was “In sickness and health”

This year was my first Carers Week ( Carers Week is an annual UK-wide awareness campaign run by a partnership of charities including Carers Trust. I joined the campaign in late February and got stuck in from day one. Plenty had already got in motion, we had seven of our eight charity partners on board and Sainsbury’s and Skills for Care had agreed to sponsor the campaign. The theme In Sickness and in Health had been decided on and I discovered on day one that I would be writing up the findings for the report to launch the campaign – what a great induction to the issues affecting the UK’s 6.4 million carers.

Well, the next three months whizzed by. I travelled around the partner offices to introduce myself and learn about their work. In March I signed off on the Carers Week promotional materials and met with Sainsbury’s Diversity Champions to launch the new initiative for Carers Week which went on to see over 500 of their stores registering and working with hundreds of local groups raising awareness among their staff and customers.

Before I knew it launch day was looming. Having worked on another awareness campaign there is always that worry that there will be another news story that pipped you to the post and got the lion’s share of the coverage. The groundwork was all there, Bex (the Carers Week Media Officer) had dozens of fantastic carers willing to share their story, a report with some shocking findings and clear calls to action for government. We weren’t to be disappointed. Carers Week and the impact that caring has on the health and well-being of carers was right across the media, from the Today programme on Radio Four to Dr Hillary Jones visiting a carer’s home on ITV’s Daybreak. News items and interviews were taking place right across the UK and not just about our news story but also the fantastic events that all the local groups had been organising. Not to mention trending on Twitter (at number two for most of the morning of Monday 18 June, and briefly number one).

Carers Week is a well supported campaign which has many opportunities to improve the lives of carers. With over 1,900 organisations registering to take part and thousands of events taking place across the UK it goes a long way to raise awareness of carers and the services and support available to them. It also highlights what needs to change to improve carers’ lives – to inform politicians we took carers to Westminster and set up a speednetworking event which saw nearly 30 MPs meeting with carers working with Carers Week eight charity partners. All the MPs including Care Minister Paul Burstow MP left with action points and a clearer view of how tough carers find their caring role and what could be done to improve their lives. The following day we were in the House of Lords with over 20 Peers, more MPs and Fiona Phillips. We will continue to follow activity and announcements from government to see what difference Carers’ Week and ongoing activity can make to carers’ lives.

With every project no matter how large or small comes the evaluation. This is taking place now and it is fascinating hearing how local groups and organisations have participated in the campaign and the creative and imaginative events and activity that took place. It is also fabulous seeing the photos of all the great events and people taking part. If you want to feed back how Carers Week was for you and your organisation please complete our online survey

Here’s to an even more fabulous Carers Week in 2013 (Monday 10 to Sunday 16 June).

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Health, Hidden carers | , | Leave a comment

It’s not surprising that carers are worried about the future

The White Paper on Social Care is coming “very soon” and promises to strengthen carers’ rights but appearance of a funding solution to the impending crisis in adult social care looks increasingly unlikely. Despite the ‘Quad’ (the regular meeting of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chief Secretary to the Treasury that discusses important coalition issues) discussions last week over the government’s position on Dilnot and funding reform, hopes of even having sight of a progress report on social care funding are fading fast. It looks like there may not be any progress on addressing the funding crisis in adult social care until the autumn at the earliest.

It is in this expectant and what is feeling like an increasingly hopeless atmosphere that the Local Government Association has issued its stark warning about social care funding – either we reform the system now or fundamental change will be needed to the way local services are funded and organised and or to statutory and citizen expectations of what councils provide.

The LGA projections show that even if social care demand is met (and this will still only be services for a minority of people) there will be a likely funding gap of £16.5 billion a year by 2019/20. What this means is that there will be hardly any money left at all for all other council services like libraries, housing, parks, playgrounds, street lights, community centres, leisure centres to a name a few.

The projections are based on the fact that central government funding for local government has already been cut from 29.7bn 2010/11 to £24.2bn in 2014/15 and that there will be further reduction to around £17.6bn by 2020 in line with Departmental Expenditure Limits set out in the Budget 2012.

The LGA projections appear to leave local government with two choices. Either maintain spending on social care and reduce spending in other areas which will drastically impact our communities or distribute spending across social care and other services. This would leave more vulnerable people with care and support needs with inadequate services or without any services at all, which is why the LGA have put it quite simply – “Without money and reform, there is no solution”.

This is really bad news for many carers who are already battling on a daily basis to get the care and support that they and their loved ones need. At the many events during Carers Week, it was made clear to me that many carers are incredibly worried about the future and how they will cope with the costs of care. They experience a lot of anxiety about their own ability to fund the care their loved ones needs and about financial restraints on the services they rely on. One carer explained “the day centre is very important for my son but also for me – it really is the best respite for a carer”. Someone else commented that the centre offering many of the activities that she and her husband take part in is closing. She’s not sure whether there will be anywhere else to go.

Carers Week was all about the fact that carers have poor health outcomes. But doesn’t it seem odd that despite the Government making it clear that they think carers should get breaks and that their health should not suffer, carers are actually experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety about funding for the services that their loved ones need?
Contradiction is at the heart of Government’s policy making on adult social care – they are willing to overhaul the complex and messy legal framework and willing to look at strengthening carers’ rights to assessment and support, but currently there is no way of funding the increase in demand for care and support. This will make it extremely difficult to fulfil carers’ rights. Of course, we welcome the Government’s “determination” to do more for carers but the legal reforms alone will not result in access to high quality care and support.

Carers know only too well that, without a funding solution for adult social care, they will continue to worry about the future because they will be left responsible for meeting the care needs of their family member of friend. We know that many of those being cared for are receiving the bare minimum from local services. This increases carers’ responsibility which is why they constantly tell us what they really need is more support for the person they care for. If the Government is serious about making support for carers a reality then it’s time to listen to them and have that difficult conversation about how we’re really going to pay for adult social care.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Social Care | , , , , | 1 Comment

Carers Week – Carers Take Over Parliament

Note: This post is written by Claire Thwaite, Carer and volunteer at The Carers’ Resource in Skipton, where she helps to educate people about the importance of carers and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She offers others support and information that she did not have when she first became a carer. Claire attended the Carers Week Speednetworking Event in Parliament.

My journey to London started out in familiar way – a mad scramble to get both myself and my cared for washed,

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

dressed and ready to leave.

The result? I missed my intended train and fretted the rest of the way about missing my connection. As my cared for pointed out when I got irate “that’s exactly what you are going to London to talk about” – Doh!

Fortunately, I arrived in time and Emma (Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust), James (Trustee from Action for Carers, Surrey) and I fought our way through the crowds and queued up to pass through security at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.

Scanned, tagged and deemed no threat to security, we made our way into Westminster Hall with enough time for a brief tour. From that moment on I feared I would be struck dumb by the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful building – what triumph, tragedy and torment those walls could tell of.

Onward to the Jubilee Room and the initial hubbub began when the Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP entered the room and everyone vied to obtain a few precious seconds of his time and maybe get a picture.

On to the real aim of the day – MPs began filtering through and I started to feel a little nervous. Fortunately, my first conversation was with Robert Buckland MP who was extremely friendly. He showed a keen interest in hearing about my experience caring for my mentally ill partner and my views on how the government needed to do more to get help for carers from the outset.

My next conversation with Conservative MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage was equally positive – I shared my experience of the downfalls of the recent changes to benefits, which have left me faced with having to give up my own job to support my partner back into work.

The following tete-a-tete, with an MP who SHOULD remain nameless, was brief as he sat down declaring himself “unable to learn anything today as I have been here for 30 years”. So, I saved my breath for those who had a genuine interest – and there were many, most of whom had their own experiences of caring or mental illness.

Carers with MPs at the House of Parliament

Carers Speed-Networking with MPs at the House of Parliament

During a most interesting discussion with Barbara Keeley MP about a new Private Members Bill on social care that she is taking forward in a few weeks time, my local MP, Andrew Stephenson arrived. He was charming and shared some of his own thoughts about mental health and how Parliament is engaging with the issue.

After that, came Mark Durkam MP from Northern Ireland, with whom James and I discussed again the lack of initial support available to carers and also employment law and issues with employers understanding carers. After he bade us farewell, we realised it was 6.15 and the event had finished 15 minutes ago.

The journey home was uneventful by comparison. My only regret? It didn’t go on long enough ……. Oh, and I should have worn more comfortable shoes.

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Health, Hidden carers | , | 8 Comments

Prime Minister celebrates Carers Week

Note: The following post is from Beryl Cross, Head of Operations at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

The Prime Minister hosted a reception for about 150 carers at 10 Downing Street yesterday to celebrate Carers’ Week. I Number 10was there with carers and staff from our Carers’ Centres. You had to be very brave to fight through the melee to get to the Prime Minister, or in Louise’s case perhaps have someone like me to push you in the back to make you do so.

Louise is a young carers who is supported by our Bromley Carers’ Centre, and she gave David Cameron a letter she had written explaining her experience and ideas for supporting young carers.  Moira Fraser, our Director of Policy, was also straight in there, highlighting to David Cameron the need for government to take action on getting NHS money for carers breaks delivered to carers and raising our Give Carers a Break campaign. And it seemed to work as in his speech later in the evening the Prime Minister said the government should “follow through” on getting Primary Care Trusts to use that breaks money for carers.

He also made reference to his own experience as a carer for his son and he gave “a huge thank you” to the carers there for what they do. There were many other Ministers there including Nick Clegg MP, Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care Services) and Steve Webb MP (Minister for Pensions), plus Tony Baldry MP co-chair the Parliamentary Group on Carers and other MPs who have supported carers in Parliament. They also recognised the massive contribution made by carers.

Jack Dromey MP also asked the Prime Minister about carers during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday to which the PM responded:

“Everyone in the House should welcome the fact that it is carers week. I will be having a reception in No. 10 tonight to celebrate carers week with many people who take part and who are carers. This Government are putting in £400 million to give carers more breaks and £800 million specifically to make sure that those looking after disabled children get regular breaks.”



June 16, 2011 Posted by | Carers Week 2009, Relationships, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , | 5 Comments

Ready for Carers Week 2011

Carers Week 2011 will be the largest awareness raising week in the UK and it begins on Monday 13th June. Over 1500 organisations including Carers’ Centres and Crossroads Care schemes, other charities, local councils, GP surgeries, hospitals and private sector companies will be holding events throughout the week.

My week begins with an event with MPs and carers on Monday, which will be something akin tcarers weeko speed dating. Numerous carers will be sat at various tables and MPs will come in and speak to each one, moving around the tables giving them a chance to hear and discuss what it’s like to be a carer.

The aim is to show MPs the range of people that caring can affect and the different issues involved. So there will be young carers there, older carers, carers who combine work and care, people who care for people who have mental health problems, or learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. I’ll blog on Monday night to let you know how it goes.

On Wednesday, Sheila Gilmore MP is holding a debate in Parliament on carers and the effects of spending cuts on them and there will also be a reception for carers at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP. We will have a guest blogger reporting back on that one.

Fast forwarding to Sunday 19th June, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers will be featured on the BBC Lifeline Appeal on BBC One at 4.55pm. Do tune in and tell friends and family about it – we hope it will raise the profile of carers and also where carers can get help.

You can find out what events are happening in your local area at the Carers Week website and do post comments letting us know if you are involved in holding events for Carers Week. If you are, good luck!

Take care


PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Carers Week 2009, Mental Health, Young carers | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MPs Debate How to Support Carers

Burstow vs Keeley, Round 1

On 1st July, MPs debated how to support carers have a life of their own in Parliament giving us the first opportunity to see Paul Burstow MP and Barbara Keeley MP, Minister and Shadow Minister for Care Services respectively, debate the issue.

Big BenBurstow began by highlighting the huge benefit that being in contact with social services can make to carers: a DH survey of 35,000 carers in contact with social services found that only 13% said they did not have the time to do anything they enjoyed whereas a Carers Week survey of 3200 carers, many of whom may not have been in contact with social services, found 76% did not think they had a life outside of caring.

From this the first of his three priorities is for more carers to be identified and for GPs to play a large role in this. His other two are to improve joint working between health, social care, and the voluntary sector, and secondly to extend the use of direct payments/personal budgets.

On cancelling Caring with Confidence (CwC), he advised that the course materials were good but they weren’t getting value for money from delivery. So, he will give the materials freely to Carers’ Centres and other providers of the programme while reinvesting the money in training for GPs on carers’ issues and other support for carers which will be announced soon.

He also advised that the DH would shortly publish an audit of Primary Care Trust support for carers, which is welcome news. Keeley replied that money for carers must be ringfenced as history has proved it is the best way to ensure that money goes where Government (& Parliament) intends… If only her previous colleagues had learnt this lesson.

Keeley expanded on this by arguing that with GPs taking on a larger role in commissioning local services and schools becoming independent of local authorities, it would be even harder to ensure that a strategic view of the needs of carers was taken in every area.

To address this, she plans to reintroduce her Carers ( Identification and Support) Private Members Bill of 2007. This would require health bodies to identify patients who are carers or have a carer and that health services took the carers’ needs into account. It would also have require schools to have a policy to identify young carers.

Responding to the CwC cancellation, Keeley pointed out that there will still be costs of actually running the course and training GPs should come out of NHS core budgets. Tony Baldry MP (Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Carers) commented that carers will still need to be trained to help manage their caring role. He also asked the Minister to look at the Work & Pensions Select Committee’s report on carers which recommended a costs of caring payment of approximately £25-£50 p/w could be given to all carers in intensive caring roles, even if receiving the State Pension.

Other MPs spoke of the need to increase benefits for carers pointing out that proposed benefit changes will see Carer’s Allowance rise slower than before and potentially fewer carers receiving it due to fewer people they are caring for getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA is requisite for the carer to get Carer’s Allowance). Many spoke of the particular need to support young carers and it was good to hear that so many had visited their local Carers’ Centre and young carers’ services and been impressed by their work.

So, seconds out, we await round two. I’m quite looking forward to it.

Click here for the transcript of the full debate

Take Care


July 6, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Young carers | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

MPs Hear Carers Issues

As part of Carers Week, we held an event for new MPs to meet carers. It was set up like speed dating with a couple of carers at each table and the MPs moving around each table after five to ten minutes talking and listening to the carers.

What struck me was that the issues that carers were talking about were not things that MPs or even national government have responsibility for. In contrast, new MPs may arrive at Parliament relishing the opportunity to radically improve things by passing laws or contribute to grand plans. And yet, it seems to be the details that are dealt with at a local level that are what people want focus on.

Carers need children and adult services to work better together. They need local commissioning of support services such as training, emotional support and breaks. They need cooperation between local authorities and hospitals to improve discharge processes. They need health and social professionals to listen to them.

National Government can and have produced guidance on these issues but responsibility for carrying them out is at the local or even individual level.

We saw the powerlessness of MPs when many lobbied their local PCT to spend the Carers’ Strategy money. But despite the Prime Minister announcing the money was to double respite care; despite Government Ministers stating that they wanted PCTs to use the full allocation on carers; and despite MPs writing letters and meeting PCT Chief Executives, many PCTs still decided to use the money elsewhere.

The trend is towards local decision making so the focus on national MPs may become ever more misplaced. May 6th was an important day – there were approximately 9000 councillors elected.

It was good to hear Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care Services) say in Parliament yesterday that he would never lose sight of carers, but it’s councillors and local health and social care professionals that have the power to change carers’ lives for the better. They don’t need to wait for new legislation or national government, they can make the changes now.

Take Care,


June 17, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Social Care | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carers Can Wait No Longer for Government Plans

Paul Burstow, new Carers Minister, at our roundtable event earlier this year

On health and social care, what’s in store for us?

It’s the waiting that’s the worst. So say civil servants, local authorities and the NHS as they wait to find out exactly what the Government plans are. Carers are maybe more used to waiting.

They wait months for a hoist that will help lift a disabled husband out of bed. They wait for information and basic training to care for a daughter dying of cancer. They wait for a break from caring 24/7 for elderly parents who live with them.

Words are spoken and strategies published but for too many, the waiting continues.

I don’t think anybody should underestimate the scale of what new Government ministers have to learn and comprehend in a very short space of time. There are also lots of competing priorities to order but next week is Carers Week and it is time for carers to wait no longer.

I met Paul Burstow MP (new Minister for social care) on Monday. He told me that they made a firm pledge to increase access to respite care and they would deliver on it. Carers now need to know how this will be achieved and when.

I also met the new Labour shadow Minister for social care – Barbara Keeley MP. She has consistently campaigned for carers locally and in Parliament and worked on carers’ issues before entering Parliament. I also met her fellow shadow Minister for Health, Diana Johnson MP who has supported local carers and carers’ organisations.

The appointments of Burstow and Keeley are positive but this will not mean that all the policy changes carers need will happen instantly – or at all. But, I do believe we have two people who regularly meet, listen to and understand carers. The election is passed, new ministers are appointed and the waiting must end – it’s time for change.

Take Care,


June 11, 2010 Posted by | breaks for carers, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, General Election, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , | 2 Comments

No break for carers

One thing that Carers Week does achieve is huge media interest which can result in people like me being pitched into radio interviews. So yesterday I was trying to refine my Scottish accent so that the listeners of Radio Cornwall could understand me. Although I’m not sure how many there are in the first place.

It seemed to go well i.e. I didn’t swear, enter a coughing fit, sneeze or lose the ability of speech. The interviewer had done a bit of homework and asked whether there was a gap between what carers needed and what the Government was doing. I knew the answer to that one!

He was genuinely astounded by the number of carers there are and brought up an interesting point for listeners advising them that even if they are not currently a carer, it was likely that would be at some point, so they had better get involved in the debate too. Three cheers for Radio Cornwall I say. 

From that interview I ran off to Parliament with Anne Roberts, Chief Exec of Crossroads, for a reception with about 40 MPs and carers in support of Carers Week. Whilst running along, Anne gave me the lowdown on the two finalists of The Apprentice who she met whilst doing an interview for GMTV.

The security checks made us miss the speeches by the two carers. However, I know Janice from our Surrey carers’ centre so she kindly gave me her speech. The last paragraph is especially moving and worth repeating. 

“As well as people with unique insight into the circumstances of our loved ones, we are also people with responsibilities and lives outside of caring. I want this to be recognised, respected and supported.”

Jonathan Shaw MP, Minister for Disabled People (who has the brief for carers’ benefits in the Dept of Work and Pensions), was there so let’s hope he was listening. He also got his ear bent about how Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were not providing breaks for carers as was announced they would do in the Carers Strategy last year. 

Anne McGuire MP, who hosted the reception and knows what it is like to be a carer, asked for more information about this. The problem is that although PCTs have been given money, it is not ring-fenced, so some PCTs are using it to provide breaks for carers but the majority are not. 

I’ll talk more about the problems with PCT and breaks for carers in a later blog but for now I would like to take my hat off to Janice from Surrey and the DJ from Cornwall who have shown wise words don’t have to come from MPs or finalists of TV programmes.

Take care,


June 11, 2009 Posted by | Carers Week 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment